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2020 MacBook Air versus the 2019 MacBook Air compared

The new 2020 MacBook Air

The new 2020 MacBook Air improves on most things versus the late 2019 MacBook Air, including a better processor, more storage, and the new Magic Keyboard — at a lower price.

The major update to the new MacBook Air is the addition of the Magic Keyboard. Otherwise, the updated model contains much that is identical to the 2019 edition, but in concert, those specifications that have been improved enough to make this a compelling buy overall. It would be a good deal even if Apple hadn't taken $100 off the price.

It's likely that it will be the new keyboard that will drive sales by itself. Previously the MacBook Air had a butterfly keyboard which was, possibly unfairly, known for failing. Once the 16-inch MacBook Pro came out in November 2019 and featured a return to the previous scissor-style mechanism, it's been expected that the MacBook Air, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro, would follow. The new mechanism gives a deeper travel, and is quieter, but it's chiefly expected to be more reliable.

With the lid closed, the 2020 and 2019 MacBook Air models are indistinguishable. The screen is the same and so are all of the dimensions. Apple has not made the case any bigger or deeper in its move from the butterfly to the scissor keyboard system.

It also hasn't increased the number of Thunderbolt 3 ports from last year's two, nor updated the front-facing camera, which remains 720p.

The 2020 MacBook Air is very slightly heavier at 2.8lbs (1.29kg) instead of the 2019 version's 2.75lbs (1.25g). As well as fractionally adding weight, the new machine has lost some battery power. Apple's claimed battery life is now up to 11 hours of general web surfing, as compared to up to 12 before.

However, the new MacBook Air comes with a choice of processors. Previously, the MacBook Air 2019 shipped solely with a 1.6Ghz dual-core Intel Core i5. The base model of the 2020 edition comes with a lower clocked 1.1Ghz dual-core Intel Core i3, but is configurable to 1.2Ghz quad-core Intel Core i7.

Geekbench 5.1 results on the new MacBook Pro
Geekbench 5.1 results on the new MacBook Pro

Though the new MacBook Air's processor is slower, it is significantly more powerful than the previous generation i5. In our Geekbench 5.1 test, the previous generation base unit with the 1.6GHz dual-core earned a 740 single-core and a 1663 multi-core. Our new base unit with the 1.1GHz dual-core i3 managed a 1074 and 2412 respectively. Even with those gains, we'd recommend springing the extra $100 to go up to the quad-core i5 for even better performance.

MacBook Air 2020MacBook Air 2019
Starting Price ($)$999$1099
Display13.3-inch LED backlit with IPS, 2560x1600 native resolution at 227ppi, millions of colors,True Tone13.3-inch LED backlit with IPS, 2560x1600 native resolution at 227ppi, millions of colors,True Tone
External monitor support1 external 6K display at 6016x3384 up to 60Hz at millions of colors; 1 external display at 5120x2880 up to 60Hz, up to 2 external displays with 4096x2304 at up to 60Hz1 external display at 5120x2880 up to 60Hz, up to 2 external displays with 4096x2304 at up to 60Hz
GraphicsIntel Iris Plus GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 617
Dimensions0.16-0.63 inches (0.41-1.61 cm) x 11.97 inches (30.41 cm) x 8.36 inches (21.24 cm)0.16-0.63 inches (0.41-1.61 cm) x 11.97 inches (30.41 cm) x 8.36 inches (21.24 cm)
Weight2.8lbs (1.29kg)2.75lbs (1.25kg)
Min processor10th generation 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i38th generation 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
Max processor1.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i71.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
RAM8GB base, 16GB maximum8GB base, 16GB maximum
Storage (SSD)256GB base, 2TB maximum128GB base, 1TB maximum
Battery lifeUp to 11 hours webUp to 12 hours web
Camera720p FaceTime HD720p FaceTime HD
PortsTwo Thunderbolt 3Two Thunderbolt 3

The options for both storage have been increased. As standard, the new MacBook Air ships with a 256GB SSD, or double the previous model. The maximum SSD storage has been doubled, too, with the 2020 machine able to be ordered with 2TB.

RAM does remain the same, however, with a minimum of 8GB and a maximum of 16GB.

The most notable internal hardware difference with the 2020 MacBook Air is in its ability to support external monitors. Just as with the 2019 model, it can drive one 5K external monitor at 5120 x 2880, or two 4K ones at 4096x2304, all at up to 60Hz.

However the new MacBook Air can also drive a 6K monitor at 6016x3384, up to 60Hz. Which means that the new MacBook Air is capable of driving Apple's Pro Display XDR. This ability comes from the use of Intel Iris Plus Graphics instead of the previous Intel UHD Graphics 617.

Deals on Apple's MacBook Air

Apple's 2020 MacBook Air is already on sale, with cash discounts of up to $104 off. It's worth checking out the AppleInsider 2020 MacBook Air Price Guide if you're in the market for the new Air to save money on your purchase.

Even steeper discounts can be found on the 2019 MacBook Air, with the ultraportable laptops now up to $300 off and prices as low as $849. You can find the markdowns 24/7 in our 2019 MacBook Air Price Guide.